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It’s fair to say Kickstarter really exploded this year, and with so many incredible projects popping up, it’s never been more difficult to save money. This year, we saw so many new 3D printers; lights of all shapes and sizes; and hundreds of Arduino spin-offs – but here’s my selection of the 6 most mind-blowing Kickstarter projects funded in 2013.
What do you get if you cross a mini 3D printer with a pen? Well, a 3D printing pen, obviously – which is exactly what the 3Doodler is. I’m skeptical though: it’s difficult enough getting a decent print from a machine designed to do it, so I can imagine making something that doesn’t resemble spaghetti by hand is infinitely more difficult. Still, the 3Doodler blew its $30k goal right out when it finally raised $2.3 million, so it’s fair to say this did indeed blow quite a few people’s minds.
Don’t worry: we’ll have a full review and giveaway soon as we get our hands on one – in the meantime don’t forget to go enter our competition for a full-sized Cube 3D printer.
I can’t include the Oculus Rift VR headset on this list since technically it was funded in 2012, but that can’t stop me from adding this VR platform for omni-directional movement. VR is still in it’s infancy, but one problem it’s facing is the lack of immersion when you’re essential just sitting down. The Virtuix Omni attempts to solve this, by putting you on your feet and giving you complete freedom of movement, translating your real life movement to in-game controls. It’s bulky and loud thanks to special shoes that are required to “slot into” the base, and really quite expensive at around $400 pre-order – but it’s also mind-blowing to imagine what playing something like Call of Duty would be in one of these. Probably quite tiring, I imagine – great for those of us who don’t exercise. Could this be the revolution that gets us off the sofa for playing video games? Maybe.
Say what you will about genetic modification – but I think we should just all agree that any modifications to make stuff glow are officially excluded from the discussion? Case in point: these glowing plants, which would not only provide useful ambient lighting in the garden but might also reduce our reliance on electricity. Let’s just make everything glow, okay? Sadly, international shipping restrictions meant I couldn’t buy any seeds here in the UK, but I hope that won’t stop you getting your hands on some for $40.
While I’m firmly in favour of completely Virtual Realities, Augmented Reality involves taking our existing world and adding bits onto it – spaceships flying around your living room, or a virtual chess game being played out on your real-life kitchen table. The castAR demo is certainly impressive enough to blow most people’s minds (funded $600k more than their original $400k target), with the glasses consisting of micro-projectors rather than screens.
You have good reason to be sceptical though: this requires the use of a reflective surface to bounce the image back to the filters on the glass lenses, so it requires placing a special mat somewhere in your view and could only be used in very specific situations. Though not a Kickstarter, these Meta SpaceGlasses look like a far better way of doing AR (and we’ve got a pair on pre-order, so stay tuned for a review!)
There were so many 3D printers launched this year, but this one stands out for being the first decent looking one at under $300 (for early bird Kickstarters anyway, the retail price is $500) – it raised $1.3 million more than their original goal of just $100k. Even at $500, a promised print resolution 0.085 microns was just too mind-blowing. With a design reminiscent of the original Power Mac G4 Cube, the Buccaneer has still not shipped and has apparently withdrawn some of their original promises, like the ability to print in ABS (not surprising, consider the consumer-oriented Cubify model, which is twice the price, can’t actually manage that either), so we’ll see.
Finally, my choice goes to PixelStick, a relatively simple RGB LED strip light which uses persistence of vision principles to help you create mind-glowingly stunning light paintings (with no digital manipulation). Waving around the stick by itself doesn’t do much, but when combined with a long exposure photo, the light persists – if you’ve seen a photograph of traffic with waving light trails from the brake lights, you’ll know how cool this can be. By varying the light as the stick moves around, you can “paint” in mid-air.
Honourable mentions should go to Pebble (reviewed here), a wristwatch style display for your smartphone, which was finally delivered in 2013 amidst fury that retail outlets received stock before some of the original Kickstarter backers. I haven’t included it because it was funded in 2012; and frankly, smartwatches are not mind-blowing – I had one when I was twelve and it was just as gimmicky back then. The OUYA was also delivered in 2013, but people quickly realised why a $100 Android gaming console just isn’t up to snuff.
If you’re thinking of backing anything on Kickstarter, it’s important to be realistic: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Like most Kickstarters, many of these projects began as utterly mind-blowing, but looking deeper or when faced with the realities of production, their promises simply can’t hold true. Or perhaps I’m just a grumpy old man. Either way, we’ll need to wait until next year to see if they deliver.
Did you back anything on Kickstarter in 2013, or did I miss a product that blew your mind? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credits: Human brain Via Shutterstock